She's a pig, a toad, a trollop, a troll. She's stupid, lazy, conceited, sloppy, dishonest and incompetent. You abhor this most loathsome of all co-workers, something you've told everyone who'll listen until their eyes glaze over at the mention of her name.
Too bad you can't fix her -- shape her up, reform her, force her to see the light. Or could it be you (perish the thought!) who needs fixing?
If you spend most of your waking hours endlessly recounting a co-worker's never-ending list of sins, telling and retelling the latest horror story about his or her most recent dirty trick or faux pas, you could be the one with the problem.
Here are some questions you might want to ask yourself if your negative feelings about someone at work are consuming your time and energy:
* Why -- specifically -- are you so angry with this person? What exactly has she done to cause your angry, resentful feelings toward her?
* Can you write down exactly how you feel about her and why? If so, you'll almost certainly end up with a clearer picture of what's going on. If you can't, it's time to question whether your feelings actually have to do with her, or with other people and issues in your life.
* What exactly do you want from this person? Can you express it in clear, non-threatening, non-accusatory terms, using "I" messages ("This is what I want from you," "This is what I need from you," "I feel this way") instead of "you" messages ("You always," "You never," "You're a . . .")?
* Are you putting other people's faces or voices on her? Does she remind you of someone else in your past or present life?
* Or does being angry with this person help you feel powerful and superior, feelings you usually don't have? If you generally feel powerless and inferior, but feel less this way when you're putting someone else down, it's your self-esteem that needs fixing, not your co-worker.
* Are you willing to do whatever it takes, including get help from a qualified professional, to let go of your resentment? * If not, are you at least willing to put your negative feelings toward this person aside for now, even if you can't or aren't willing to resolve them, and concentrate instead on establishing, or re-establishing, a satisfactory working relationship?
What's important to remember is that it isn't necessary to like someone in order to work effectively with him or her, and that this sort of negative energy drains and weakens the person who expends it, not the person to whom it's directed.
Questions and comments for Niki Scott should be addressed Working Woman, Features Department, The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore, Md. 21278.
- Universal Press Syndicate